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How Big Is Too Big?

top-dog-2006.jpgAccording to Wealth Manager magazine, Kahler Financial Group is ranked as the largest financial planning firm in a seven-state area. Wealth Manager defines “largest” according to the size of the average client’s assets rather than the size of the firm. Still, when I consider the small number of staff members in my office, I find that rank amazing. I am proud of them, as well as very grateful for their hard work and their dedication to client service.

Because of our growth, I am facing a decision that is a chronic dilemma for owners of small businesses. All of us need to answer, again and again, the question: “How big do I want this business to be?”

I have been looking at adding another financial planner to my practice. The advantages are obvious: searching.jpgbeing able to accept more new clients, having another planner in the office when I am gone, and freeing more of my time for speaking, writing, and expanding our services.

There are disadvantages, as well. The first is the challenge of finding a planner whose philosophy matches mine, who is committed to doing the integrated financial planning that is the heart of my practice, and who wants to live in Rapid City, South Dakota. Others include the need to delegate and share responsibility with a second planner, the probable need to add support staff, and the need to actively seek out new clients in order to support a second planner.

No matter what field a business owner is in, there are always going to be pros and cons when it comes to expanding. For an entrepreneur, building the business can be tempting for its own sake. Growth means the ability to reach more clients or customers, an expectation of higher profits, and increasing the value of the business against a time when you might want to sell it. It may allow more opportunities for family members to participate if they wish to. It can take pressure off of the owner and give clients assurance that the service they’ve come to expect from you will continue in the future because there are others in the company with the training and ability to do what you do.

The arguments against growth include the risks of losing touch with some aspects of the business and losing control over the quality of the services the business provides. With each new employee you add, you exponentially compound and complicate the office relationships. The more relationships, the more management required of the owner. With expansion comes the need to find, hire, and train managers—as well as the need to delegate to them and let them manage.

rising-chart.jpgAs your business grows, you may expand yourself right out of the technical hands-on aspects of your profession that you most enjoy. Instead of working “in the business” your time is consumed working “on the business.” Unless an owner is consciously aware and prepared for this shift in roles, the results can be disastrous. This transition is the focus of The E Myth, a book I highly recommend.

The question of how big a business should be has no single right answer. The key is to make your decisions about growth as consciously as possible by getting as much information as you can and by carefully considering pros and cons. Even more important is to define and think through what your goals are for yourself and for the business. It’s essential to decide how you most want to spend your time on a daily basis. Then you can more readily decide how big you want your business to be.

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One Response to How Big Is Too Big?

  1. Joanne and Gary July 24, 2007 at 2:24 pm #

    Rick, we understand your quandry. Sounds like you have to balance business and family also. Remember, your children are only young once and you want to be in their lives – but not enough to smother them. Quite a balancing act. (Of course, if you have kids and grandkids like us . . . . .)